The Corporate Right to Speak Freely about Macho Federalist Tensions in Times of Political Repression: What Every Venusian Should Know

By Gavil, Andrew I. | Northwestern University Law Review, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Corporate Right to Speak Freely about Macho Federalist Tensions in Times of Political Repression: What Every Venusian Should Know


Gavil, Andrew I., Northwestern University Law Review


The process of translating words across cultures often presents some challenges to the translator. Context of course is crucial and often can alter meaning. So to prepare for today's luncheon, I consulted the Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner German-English Dictionary and discovered that in the context of a luncheon tribute, "festschrift" is a synonym for "shtupfest," which means "roast."1 In that spirit, I am happy to share with you some of my reflections on the impact Marty Redish has had on my career and professional life.

I arrived on the Northwestern campus in the late summer of 1978. Long sideburns, blow-drying, and disco were in, as was the color orange. Asteroids, Space Invaders, and later PacMan were the state-of-the-art rage in video games. Annie Hall won the Academy Award for best picture that year, and the year before, John Travolta had starred in Saturday Night Fever.

Yet although outside the law school's walls it was the 1970s, much of the faculty appeared to be in various stages of recovery from the 1960s. I recently saw Dan Polsby, now Dean at the George Mason University School of Law, and I am pleased to report that his personal recovery continues, although slowly.

Marty appeared to have skipped the '60s. He wore dark suits and drove a Buick (or was it an Oldsmobile?). For Marty, "fahrvergnügen" had nothing to do with the joy of driving a Volkswagen; it was all about a good law review placement. In 1978, he was on a roll as a junior faculty member, having recently published articles in the Michigan,2 Texas,3 and University of Chicago4 law reviews. Then the big kahuna finally came-with Carter Phillips, another former research assistant, he published his first article in the Harvard Law Review,5 followed a year later by yet another with Cornell.6 I still recall the impressive shelf in his office where he had neatly and discretely stacked 10,000 reprints, which he nonchalantly offered to random passersby.

Something of a cross between Marv Albert and Johnny Carson, Professor Redish entered the Civil Procedure classroom with a flourish, as if the Tonight Show band were playing its overture as he hopped up onto the platform at the head of the room. "Heeeeeeerrrrrre's Marty!!" And assured that he had shared with us an especially insightful observation, one expected at any moment he might come unglued and shout out, "REDISH, from downtown; YES!" Ironically from today's perspective, he seemed to be a "class" act who could enable class in others, although in an entirely nonsubstantive way.7

Marty's teaching style and infectious enthusiasm presented some problems for me. I suffered from overexposure to television as a child, and some of his favorite phrases triggered random associations. For example, Marty seemed to be enamored with the word "tensions." Having now passed through my thirties as well, I better understand what that might have been about-but as Steve Presser used to say, "I digress."8

In my mind, "tensions" conjured an image of impressionist Frank Gorshin doing his imitation of Kirk Douglas as Spartacus proclaiming, "I'm feeling a lot of TENSIONs in the allocation of ROman POWer!!" Marty also liked the phrase "macho federalism," which let loose images of Jay, Hamilton, and Madison striding through Brooklyn with John Travolta, shirts open, chest hair flaring, gold chains dangling.

Marty Redish, "staying alive . . . ."

I startled him with a Bronx cheer from the rear of the room, shouting "OK."

He also taught us about the outmoded "Byrd balancing,"9 which now may be making an unexpected comeback,10 and I imagined holding cooing pigeons in both of my hands, standing erect like a scale of justice and weighing federal and state interests.

"Coooo, coooo." That was pretty eerie.

Despite my occasional outbursts, Marty also proved to be an enthusiastic mentor and personal professional trainer. To my enduring gratification, he selected me as his research assistant for the summer of 1979. …

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